After a series of meetings last week, Penticton’s economic development officer said work on the problem of skilled labour shortages is getting ready to move from planning and collecting data to taking action.
There were three information meetings, said Colleen Pennington. One with her steering committee, another public meeting, which drew a number of business operators and a third meeting with representatives from the Downtown Penticton Association and South Okanagan Immigration and Community Services.
Pennington said she shared some of the feedback gathered from surveys, validating that they are on the right track, then looked at strategies that need to happen to solve some of the labour market issues and then which of those should be prioritized, given limited resources.
“Without a doubt, labour issues was the top problem. Everywhere we are going, we are hearing that same story,” said Pennington. “We have labour challenges and we need to get more skilled at recruiting, retaining and general match of labour to the kinds of needs our businesses have.”
By March, Pennington said, they should have an action plan developed dealing with what the employers felt were gaps in the labour market that need to be addressed.
“From there, we are going to work toward implementing some initiatives that address those actions,” said Pennington. “The goal is, have we nailed what the labour market issues are that are most important? What can we get started on right away that make it better for our businesses that they can grow.”
Growing and maintaining businesses, she said, means more growth in employment and economic activity.
Another initiative, to develop and grow the virtual worker sector, is also showing promise, according to Pennington.
“It got a lot of responses, the tracking on it has gone really well. We have had far more people contacting my group and a number of people have been active in it, asking questions about moving here and starting businesses here,” she said, adding that the campaign has developed considerable reach and is positioning Penticton in a unique way compared to other communities.
“We have to figure out how we get to the next phase and keep positioning Penticton as the place to be if you are a virtual worker,” said Pennington.